The way we live our life is often described with the use of metaphors and idioms. When you really pay attention you’ll often hear them flying out of peoples mouths:
“He’s just treading water.”
“I felt like I was on top of the world!”
“She’s walking on thin ice.”
There are around 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language. I’m sure there are many you are familiar with and use yourself everyday. Of course they’re often spoken at an unconscious level.
When you take the time to investigate the metaphorical imagery behind the utterance you’ll discover it is in fact rich with meaning. This is known as semantic density or put more simply, “A picture tells a thousand words.”
Usually idiomatic statements are just spoken without paying conscious attention to the actual imagery behind them. However you can become aware of the unconscious right-brain information to your benefit.
You may be aware of some of your metaphors already. Or you can pick one area of your life such as work, relationships, spirituality and so on and then simply ask, “And what is that like?”
Give yourself time to answer the question and notice what arises in your mind’s eye. For example let’s say you picked ‘my spiritual life.’ When you asked, “What is that like?”, you became aware of a winding path going upwards; The spiritual path of course.
If you’ve ever done any sort of ‘Metaphor Work’ before you may be tempted to visualise strolling down the path to discover what is at the end, delighting in the rainbows and Unicorns along the way…
However as I learned from Andrew T. Austin’s excellent, ‘Metaphors of Movement’ course recently, it is best to know where you stand first. If you were lost in the wrong side of town in a foreign speaking country, it would be wise to find out exactly where you ARE first.
So staying with the path metaphor, start by looking at your feet in the imagery. And then look forward – What can you see? How far ahead does the scenery go? What is to your left? How far can you see? And the right? And then what is behind you?
Exploring the metaphor this way enables you to get a clear picture of where you currently stand. You can now test the boundaries of the internal landscape. What happens if you step to the left off the path? What happens if you step to the right side of the path? And what happens if you turn around and face the opposite direction?
Give this a go. Just explore the imagery gently noticing what you can see in each direction. You may be tempted to change the image or add things in like you’ve learned in other metaphor exercises, but resist this and just notice what is there. Remember it represents information from the previously unconscious levels of your mind. It is the deep structure of your metaphorical statements.